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Church of Ireland Theological Institute tribute to Canon Bartlett

The Revd Canon Dr Maurice Elliott, has written the following tribute to his predecessor, John R Bartlett, who died last Thursday evening and whose funeral will be taking place today (Tuesday, 23rd August) in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

On behalf of all the staff and students currently associated with the Church of Ireland Theological Institute I should like to offer these words of tribute and sympathy in light of the sad news of the death of Revd Canon Professor John R. Bartlett. 

‘JRB’, as he was affectionately known, assumed the role of Principal in what was then CITC in the summer of 1989, just a few short weeks before my own commencement of theological training under his tutelage.  Given the theological and geographical diversity of the Church of Ireland, it was not a straightforward task for him to transition away from the hallowed halls of Trinity College, but John took on the role with diligence, energy (he was so often in a hurry!) and no little measure of good humour.  Even when his face may have worn that slightly agonised frown, it usually soon gave way to a warm smile.  Together with his first wife, Jan, John set about renewing what had become the somewhat jaded facilities in Braemor Park, and to this day the attractiveness of the college gardens bear the hallmarks of their collective creativity. 

One of the most natural uniting features of life within CITC was (and is) respectful relationality in a spirit of openness and generosity, and JRB modelled these qualities in fulsome measure.  In particular, he was a great believer in the virtues of sport and leisure as a means of bringing staff and students together.  Many will fondly remember him cheering on the CITC football team (to yet another defeat!) from the sidelines of the pitch in Trinity Hall, or joining assiduously in games of croquet in the run–up to the annual examinations, or, indeed, both umpiring and taking his turn to bowl in the annual cricket match at St. Columba’s School (rumour has it that he may been a little stiff around the shoulders for some time after that exploit!).

John was first and foremost a distinguished Old Testament scholar, and his personal academic pedigree afforded the Church of Ireland an excellent standing in the eyes of the University of Dublin, a fact duly recognised with the establishment from the early 1990s, as a result of his own endeavours, of full accreditation for the Bachelor in Theology degree.  This milestone gave John immense satisfaction, and I can still recall his sheer joy in unveiling for the first time the colours of the BTh academic hood.  Many generations of COI clergy will have reason in these days to give thanks for his unstinting efforts in this regard.

More recently it became my great privilege to renew acquaintance with JRB, now as one of his successors, in the context of our shared involvement with Christ Church Cathedral.  He and I sat on various occasions in both the Chapter Room and the choir stalls.  He was always keen to hear about current life in CITI, he was a ready source of encouragement and support, and he simply loved to converse in all matters of church music, liturgy, or when he had been struck, whether favourably or adversely, by some aspect of the sermon. 

With his commitment to the journal, Search, other areas of professional interest, and his own ongoing research, writing and publishing, JRB continued to contribute to both the church and academy right to the end, and in the spring of 2020 CITI greatly enjoyed a moment of welcoming him with his wife, Olivia, and many friends for the launch of his Gospels in Iambic Verse and Meet the Apostles.  On that occasion JRB was tangibly delighted to back in the place to which he had given so much over twelve years – he clearly felt at home, and we each felt a deep sense of gratitude for the depth of his intellect and the gentle modesty of his Christian discipleship.

The Church of Ireland has lost one ofits most distinguished clergy, JRB the gentleman, the scholar, and the priest.  Together we say Deo gratia, and we extend our deepest sympathy and heartfelt prayers to Olivia and all the members of John’s loving family circle.  

Canon Dr Maurice Elliott, Dr Margaret Daly–Denton, Canon Prof John Bartlett and Dr Kenneth Milne pictured at the launch of Canon Bartlett's books,  ‘Meet the Apostles' and ‘The Gospels in Iambic Verse', at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute in February 2020.
Canon Dr Maurice Elliott, Dr Margaret Daly–Denton, Canon Prof John Bartlett and Dr Kenneth Milne pictured at the launch of Canon Bartlett's books, ‘Meet the Apostles' and ‘The Gospels in Iambic Verse', at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute in February 2020.

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